Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Has it really been Five Years?

We began writing articles for Jarod Griess’ Sutton Life Magazine in August, 2009. This posting is based on the article written for the July, 2014 issue of that magazine, the fifth anniversary of this series and, I guess our 60th effort. Has it really been five years?

Do you still have every one of those magazine articles? I doubt it; neither do I. A few issues seem to have drifted away. But the majority of those magazine articles, or at least a version of them became posts on this blog and remain readily available.

Check the “Labels” section on the right of the page for the “Sutton Life Magazine” entry for the collection in roughly reverse chronological order.

This photo of Army PFC Jack Wayne Schroder illustrated
our May, 2013 article in Sutton Life Magazine about the
selective service draft. The 20-year old Clay Center soldier
was killed in Vietnam in 1967.
And in full disclosure, there really aren't 60 different articles; three of them grew to become two-part articles in multiple issues.

The articles in our series seemed to group themselves into categories:

1.      Tales of the early days of Sutton
2.      Biographical stories of noteworthy individuals
3.      Odd topics difficult to categorize, and
4.      Articles with some philosophical bent about studying or thinking about the past

The first articles in the series appropriately looked at the early settlement of our town. We called it a small town with a big story. It has proven to be a big enough story to keep the series going for five years. Our second article examined the reasons why a town would develop here, at that time and in that manner. The plains 125 miles west of the Missouri River were ripe for development with recent statehood, security provided by the recently freed up U.S. Army, approaching rails, railroad land and homesteads, etc.

While the railroad was a critical factor in the town’s beginning, it was not a smooth start. Sutton’s “war” with the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad was worth an early article all by itself.

The August and September, 2010 articles were especially fun as we researched and guessed the origins of the names of the streets and avenues of Sutton. Were many curious enough to even wonder about that? Don’t know, but once we started looking at the topic, it was impossible to stop. There are still three avenues to the east of town which we still don’t have definitive answers for. It’s still open for your suggestions.

We had an article on “Sutton Firsts” in April, 2011, stories of early immigration by Germans and Swedes, explanations of the workings of railroad land sales and homesteading and the stories of early settlers.
Our article about Satch generated feedback from many who
remembered this venerable icon of Sutton for decades and
appreciation from those too young to have known the man.
We are proud of this article and the reaction.   
The stories of the settlers fit into our set of biographical articles. F. M. Brown, homesteader and publisher of The Sutton Register warranted a two part article as did developer I. N. Clark. We did an article in May, 2010 on the Gray family, builders of the two houses which today host our museum.

The April 2012 article dealt briefly with some of the more obscure characters with Sutton connections. William Mehlhaf acted on his dream to search for the Lost Dutchman’s Mine; Walter Wellman, likely the first Sutton newspaperman at age 14 later pushed the envelope on hot air balloon travel trying to be first to the North Pole and to start a trans-Atlantic mail and passenger service; Herbert Johnson became a nationally-known cartoonist for the Saturday Evening Post and Country Gentleman magazines in the ‘30’s and Sutton joined the first UFO frenzy in 1947 with sightings by Henry Fuehrer, Henry Trautman and Doc Ochsner.

Our real “hoot” is finding little tidbits of our community history that has faded away and become lost such as the mention in a faded newspaper that in the late 1880’s Sutton merchant William “Billy” Gold moved his business to Lincoln starting Gold & Co. on “O” Street.

We were able to tell the stories of three more obscure, but interesting pioneers, coincidently, all women who left the tiniest of tracks for us. Nellie Stevens was the first Grafton school teacher and later operated a millinery shop in Sutton with her friend Alida Curtiss. Alida later memorialized their story in a novel called “Mother Wanted a Son.” Fiction can sometimes tell as much about our history as researched documentation.

Our article and posting about Dr. Madeleine
Leininger remains the most visited post on
the blog. It first appeared in the November
2012 issue of Sutton Life Magazine.
Minnie Rowe, Sutton Class of ’86, 1886 that is, wrote children’s stories under the name of Little Nebraska Annie and became a temperance leader. Betsy Swanson emigrated from Sweden to Saronville via Salt Lake City and Council Bluffs, not the usual path to our community.

Probably our best biographies, so far, are of Ted Wenzlaff and Madeleine Leininger. Col. Wenzlaff made connections between our town and world and national events bringing those events into a focus we would not appreciate without that local connection. Dr. Leininger kept her Sutton ties while creating an entirely new profession within the world of nursing by traveling and studying around the world, writing dozens of professional papers expanding the nursing field and leading prestigious academic and professional organizations. The Leininger article from November, 2012 has been the most visited blog posting since it first appeared.

And we tracked down Edward W. Woodruff for the June, 2011 issue. His name appears high on a north-side building along with the date “1881.” He came from “back east” likely Illinois, stopped in Sutton to build that building, serve as councilman and mayor then moved onto a public service job in Washington, D.C. before living in Oregon and retiring in Pasadena. Some live their whole lives in one place, others, not so much.

Among our “miscellaneous” topics, those hard to categorize was a piece about the Clark’s donation of four city blocks for the city park and how one of the Mrs. Clarks took ten years to give in and give up her prized trees.

There were articles about the nature of Sutton in 1923 and in 1940. We’ll have to do a couple of more of those sometime soon on other years. A favorite was the story in February, 2013 of the 1922 championship Sutton High basketball team.

We expanded beyond Sutton to tell about the 1st Nebraska Infantry in the Civil War and a Januaary, 2013 pitch for examining local history while traveling. That one was no small feat: working Key West into a Sutton, Nebraska history article and I even think it worked.

Another story beyond Sutton was the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy but even that story had its Sutton connection with the photo of the escort of the cassion with horses originally purchased by Sutton’s Col. Wenzlaff for the Arlington Cemetery funeral detail.

Several of the articles fit into the fourth category which talked about how we study or look at history.
Our story about the Sutton chapter of the  Royal Highlanders
lodge around 1900 came as a big surprise to many.
Just last February we discussed “What do we know and how do we know it” looking at the challenge of locating and evaluating evidence and documentation that is reliable and appears correct in describing past events. Just one month prior our topic was about observing change over time to interpret the history of a place or a facet of society.

An early article described using the census to interpret the facts about people to learn the history of a place.

Did we have a specific objective about telling the story of our Sutton community when we started this endeavor five years ago? I don’t recall one. We’ve evolved into producing a series of articles which rotates through types of topics as the months roll by. We try to live up to the objective of the Sutton Historical Society to “collect and preserve the artifacts and information about the Sutton community,” in this case it is the information that we are collecting and preserving by presenting it in these articles.

We preserve what we have found by posting most of our articles on the blog referenced at the beginning of this article. We thank Jarod Griess and the staff of the Sutton Life Magazine for the opportunity to present the various stories of the history of our community in their magazine each month.

And we hope that you enjoy being reminded of stories from Sutton’s past and that you would consider joining us in telling these stories. --- The Sutton Historical Society.

The basis of this article first appeared in the July, 2014 issue of Sutton Life Magazine. For further information about this publication contact Jarod Griess at 402-984-4203 or neighborhoodlife@yahoo.com
Sutton's Colonel Ted Wenzlaff was the cavalry officer who acquired several of the horses in President Kennedy's cassion
for the Arlington Cemetery funeral detail. It's one of those Sutton connections we should try to remember. 

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